Countdown to Paraclimbing Nationals

Well, I have gotten as strong as I can possibly get before the 2015 Paraclimbing Route Climbing Nationals this Friday in Kennesaw, GA. I did my last moderate workout on Monday and will be resting for the remainder of the week. The trick is to somehow maintain my form and weight (which I find hard to do when I am in slug mode), stay limber this week, and avoid any further injury. Sleep has been tough the last few weeks, due to neuropathy and pain issues. Nothing new there, I suppose, but it is still hard to function sometimes when I am feeling so tired so often.

I am a bit disappointed that the walls at Stone Summit Kennesaw are not as steep as the ones in Stone Summit Atlanta. I had been climbing almost exclusively on steep overhanging terrain inside on lead, and feel like I have gotten much better at my power game. I heard someone describe this style of climbing as “thuggy”, which I think is rather perfect :) Endurance is a strong suit of mine, so I feel like long routes will be to my advantage. More footwork-intensive, vertical/slabby terrain will not help me much against the competition, as my fellow competitors have more function than me in their lower bodies. I am still aiming to win my category, and be the highest scoring female. I would also like to place in the top-3, men and women. We shall see. I am a bit nervous, as I tend to be in indoor comps with all eyes on me. As someone said, I just need to climb with swag. Ha. I am pleased that I my fingers are not hurting as much as last year, so I hope to significantly improve on last year’s grades/scores, but I know the competition will be tougher

It looks like this year’s competition is attracting many more competitors, so I am looking forward to meeting a bunch of new folks. At least training for this competition is another useful data point for me to build upon and determine what my training will look like for next year’s Nationals, which will also be the qualifier to be on Team USA at the 2016 IFSC World Championships.

The next few weeks will be a bit jammed, between travelling to Atlanta (or, rather, Hot-lanta – temperatures reaching 100 degF, before humidity is taken into account!) and then to NREL in Golden, CO for work afterwards. I am hoping to fit in a day of climbing outside while I am in Colorado. Then, hopefully, focusing on the short outdoor season in New England when I return.

The Tongue revisited

My partner always tells me that the perception I have of myself climbing – namely, that I am slow and weak – is vastly different to reality. In the early days of our courtship in April 2014, I showed him a video a friend had taken of me climbing a feature in one of the local climbing gyms called The Tongue, which basically starts of very slightly over-hung, kicks back and eventually ends up almost 90 degrees to the vertical. The video was from late October 2013 (I guess the order in which I did things was a bit off: first ice-climbing (February 2013), then rock-climbing (May and August 2013), then pulling on plastic in a climbing gym (October 2013) :))When he watched this video, he said, Wow, you climb so much better now, and I thought, “Really??” He said, yeah, you actually use your left leg now, as an active counter-weight and not just this passive dangling thing.

As usual, New England’s fickle weather thwarted my plans (it turned out to be a really nice day despite the forecasts for wet weather today – drat!), and I had made indoor climbing plans with a friend. Scott just so happened to come by as I was about a third of the way up The Tongue, and he thought it would be good to catch me on video so that I could see for myself how my climbing has evolved.

For reference, here is that first video of me climbing the feature (Nov 2013), on some 5.9+, just wearing a tennis shoe on my left foot.

The route I was on today was a 10c, which isn’t particularly difficult, but the steepness of The Tongue makes up for that. You will see that when things start to get very over-hung, without the use of my left leg, my feet really kick out, and I just have to use my core to suck my right leg back in. I cut out parts where I am hanging on holds shaking out a lot; this route was done close to the end of a long session, so I was pretty tired and climbing slowly, but hopefully not too sloppily. It is hard to tell just how overhanging The Tongue is in this video because my partner was lying down when he was recording; but you might get an idea from how frequently my feet cut out and I am just hanging with my arms – it’s like I am at a bloody jungle gym.

FYI, I did finish the route but did take at the second to last move, which was unfortunate, but I was pretty gassed at that point. Having a functional left leg would have been super useful for that part.

I still have the tendency to critique myself extensively when watching such videos; but, I will admit there has been improvement. The main things I observe as I compare these two videos is that:

  1. I do a lot less tugging and “adjusting” at holds to test if they are “good” (which is silly since it is plastic indoors, not some loose flake outside); I think that was just because I was so unconfident about my feet.

  2. I am actually placing my left foot (with a climbing shoe on it!) on holds. At around 0:15 in the new video you will see me using my left heel on a hold, because I was trying to recruit some of the hamstring function I do have at that spot. There is a lot more “hopping” with my right leg (and I still do that a lot) in the first video.

  3. My partner thinks I move more confidently and smoothly; I would argue that I am still plodding along here, but that could be because of just being tired. He also didn’t start filming until I was about a third of the way up the feature, and the first third was not trivial for me.

  4. Oh, and I am comfortable enough in my own skin to just be wearing a sports bra, showing big fat scars and all.